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Oct 15

Benchmark Bourbon – Review

Benchmark BourbonMcAfee’s Benchmark Old No. 8 Brand Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

80 Proof

Price Point: $20-$25 for 1.75 L

Distiller: Buffalo Trace Distillery

 

Background

Because this is my first review, I wanted to choose a special whiskey.  Other bloggers would have chosen something rare, something expensive.  Something intangible for the average twenty-something whiskey drinker.

Not me.

I value whiskey for its taste, regardless of its prestige or price point.  This is precisely why I chose Benchmark, one of my personal favorites, and arguably the best value for bourbon drinkers around the world.

I was first introduced to Benchmark by my dad.  Being the whiskey (specifically bourbon) expert, he cringed at the fact that my drink of choice was a Jack & Coke.  I certainly have nothing against Jack Daniel’s (in fact I’ll be reviewing it in the coming weeks), but when that particular concoction is as far as you dive into the wonderful world of whiskey, you are truly missing out on some great experiences.

Upon trying Benchmark, mixed with a little Coke of course, I was impressed.  It had a very similar caramel-y, sugary flavor reminiscent of Jack Daniel’s, only with a little something more.  When I tried it on the rocks for the first time, I was absolutely hooked.  Benchmark was my new staple; a whiskey that was both very flavorful and very easy to drink.  When it was time for me to buy my own, I was even more pleased.  With a price point in the $20 range for a handle, how can you say no?

Two years later, I still can’t say no to Benchmark.

 

Review

Benchmark’s aroma is plainly stated – perfect.  In my opinion, this is exactly how a high-quality bourbon should smell.  It is complex enough to distinguish itself from other bourbons without anything extra added on as a trademark.  This is the benchmark (pun fully intended) for all other bourbons.

The main theme with Benchmark’s taste is sweetness.  Even without a mixer, you will notice just as much sugar in Benchmark as your favorite soda.  It doesn’t overpower the taste – it’s just there to keep you interested.  Once you have the liquid in your mouth, and are savoring it for a few seconds, you’ll really notice a strong caramel taste above all else, followed by a light vanilla.

The aftertaste is just as sweet as ever, and lingers for quite some time.  But in a good way.

 

Rating & Recommendations

Clearly I am a fan of Benchmark.  However, because it is such an even-keeled whiskey, it’s difficult for me to give it a very high rating.  Benchmark is absolutely perfect with a mixer or as an everyday bourbon, but it’s not unique enough for a 90 rating or higher.  I rate Benchmark’s Old No. 8 brand with an 80 out of 100.

The possibilities for drinking Benchmark are wide open.  Most people will choose to mix it with Coke or Ginger Ale, which is absolutely fine, and even encouraged by me.  I prefer drinking mine with a few cubes of ice, but it’s just as enjoyable neat.

As long as you are drinking and enjoying Benchmark, you’re doing it the right way.

 

-Ryan

43 comments

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  1. daryl

    I tried Benchmark for the first time …about 10minutes ago….this is a good tasting whiskey! I can’t wait to try it with a nice medium to full bodies cigar. Great price point !!

    More comments to come

    1. Ryan

      Thanks for the comment, Daryl. Benchmark is definitely a solid bourbon at a very good price point!

      -Ryan

      1. JA Conner

        You said that Benchmark has a sweet sugary finish, do they add sugar back into the mix?

    2. Bob Quillin

      Great whiskey…especially for the price!

  2. Mike

    Ryan – thanks for the review. I’ve been after this stuff for quite awhile now. I was even getting it for $14 a handle recently. Benchmark is hands downs the best every day bourbon around. Lets just try and keep it a secret! Mike

    1. Ryan

      $14 for a handle of Benchmark must be the deal of the year! I agree, let’s keep this our little secret…

      Thanks for the comment!

      -Ryan

  3. Joe

    I stopped by the New Hampshire State Liquor Store the other day as I was out of bourbon. I am also a JD fan (Jack & Diet, Jack & Water, Jack/Rocks, whatever). I have to say I went into the store willing to try something different as the price of JD has gotten out of hand…

    For some reason, this stuff jumped off the (bottom) shelf at me. The bottle is square, it says “Old No. 8″ instead of “Old No. 7″…I thought it must be a JD knock off. Quick Google search on the iPhone and your review comes up. THANK YOU! $16/1.75L, out the door. Tried it last night….wow. Wow!

    I prefer Benchmark. That didn’t take long.

    It appears that this is not available in Maine yet, where I live. I hope that NH keeps it on the shelf for a long time to come!

    Cheers!

    1. Ryan

      Wow, what a comment! I have to say that it brings me a considerable amount of joy that my review influenced your decision, in the store no less!

      I hope you’ll stick around and check out some more of my reviews. It seems we already have an affinity for Benchmark in common.

      -Ryan

  4. Dan

    About 15 years ago my brother in law gave me bottle of Benchmark when I was visiting him in San Antonio and I loved the flavor and aroma. I live in B.C. Canada and can’t get it here. (our selection of any alcoholic beverage is very limited.) Sadly he and my sister passed, so no more Texas connection. I’ve tried Washington and Nevada (OK only in Vegas) and no luck. If my wife and I are traveling in the States, do you know which states might carry it as a usual sales item? Washington will bring it into an ABC store if one orders a case (I like it alot, but not being allowed to sell it, I’d have a great supply for too many years).
    Any thoughts?

    Dan

    1. Ryan

      Hi Dan.

      It sounds like you are just about out of options. Living in Pennsylvania (a control state), I am all too aware of the problems of not being able to find my favorite whiskeys in stores.

      I’m really not the authority on whiskey availability by state – perhaps another commenter can chime in and help Dan out…?

      -Ryan

    2. Kentucky Jay

      I know I am late to this party by a few months, but if you ever pass through Kentucky, you can find Benchmark and any other Kentucky Bourbon in just about any liqour store, for much cheaper than you will find it in other states.

      1. EL Cigar

        the owner of the party store i get my whiskey from told me about this, he said it was very good and he was selling it for under $10, tried it, loved it and have bought it since, i have recommended this to all my friends, i enjoy sipping this with a good cigar.

  5. Scott

    Being a PLCB employee I can say for sure PA has Benchmark, it is on sale untill sept. 30th for $18.99 a handle. If you are a Benchmark fan give Buffalo Trace a try, you will be impressed.

  6. Rodney

    Google Benchmark search got me here. This past week I was at an Italian restaurant in Glenwood Springs, CO. I am a big Makers fan, but the restaurant only had one bourbon. One I had never heard of. Benchmark. The server told me that I would probably like it. I was very skeptical, but I thought, what the heck? I prefer Makers neat every time. I drank the Benchmark the same way. I was very pleasantly surprised. Very smooth. Pretty good stuff. I will definitely look to snag a bottle if I can find it in Atlanta.

  7. charles

    hmmm. im drinking some now. i tried it because it was cheap, and because i noticed it is distilled, bottled, and aged by Buffalo Trace. Buffalo trace is an excellent bourbon. this benchmark whiskey is, perhaps one of the better 15 dollar bourbons. it isnt great. but it is excellent for a bourbon to keep around if you are like me; i love having a drink or two at the end of the day. my favorite drink, the manhattan, just isnt very good with this whiskey. but it makes a decent old fashioned. (which is weird, considering the quality should matter just as much in an O.F. than a manhattan.) but anyway, ill buy it again. cant beat 15 bucks or so. i would rather drink my favorite Bulleit Rye, or Buffalo Trace bourbon, however i cant afford to do that every week haha.

  8. civiletti

    Benchmark is currently my favorite cheap bourbon, supplanting Evan Williams Black. I find only one slight fault: a bit of soapiness if drunk neat. Good stuff.

  9. Sam

    I just bought a bottle of Benchmark at the grand opening of a liquor store near me. Unbelievably, it was on sale for four dollars! Having never tried Benchmark (nor bourbon at all, for that matter), I figured I’d get on the sale while I could even though my dad, who tends to favor scotch more than anything else, sneered over its price, thinking the brand to be low quality. I have to say,though , I did enjoy it. I’m no liquor aficionado, but I really did love the aroma and smoky flavor (that’s how I’d describe it, at least) of this brand.

    I might have to head on down and buy another $4 bottle for backup.

  10. VV

    Went to the liquor the shop, and found that my favorite JackDaniels was out of stuck. Saw benchmark bourbon on the rack, and picked it up. Guess what…….its great.. I am loving it. I am not a whiskey/wine taster who can compare flavors as combination of vanilla caramel or oranges or whatever. For me its as simple as that I like Jack Daniels because of that peculiar taste, and that similar taste, if not stronger, at very least the same is there in Benchmark Bourbon :)
    Do be very honest I didn’t even know what bourdon is…..yeah some people on this thread may be thinking to kill me for that….but that’s the truth. Any only today I researched on what is the procedure for a bourbon whiskey :).
    Ahh……all these experiences apart……for people reading this comment, If you are thinking to try this whiskey, go for it…you will love it. And if you like JD, you will love it.

  11. Philip Kinslow

    I’m a 62 year old man. I used to be a beer drinker, but don’t like how I feel after drinking a couple of bottles. Life is too short not to drink whiskey, though, and that’s what I now drink. The great thing about bourbon (and bourbon drinkiers) is that it’s a working man’s beverage. You can drink the expensive stuff, but the fun is to find good, everyday bourbon at a low price. I haven’t tried Benchmark, yet, but I definitely will when I replenish my supply. As for Jack Daniels–there are many, many better bourbons at a much better price. JD is for frat boys who believe it’s advertising.

  12. Nick

    love this whiskey, found it a year ago or so… on the bottom shelf at a liqour store… thought to myself perfect! its cheap!!!.. and then tried it.. was so surprised, dont have the money really for expensive liqour.. but even from what ive tasted here and there, i prefer benchmark..if you are reading these reviews to see if you want to try this whiskey… do try it!

  13. hilary

    I am actually a Jack and coke kinda girl, however I may switch to Benchmark. l tried it for the first time a couple nights ago and was very impressed. It has a bold but smooth taste which gets better with every sip. The price being $15.00 dollars cheaper than Jack just seals the deal.

  14. Don

    I drank JD for years times got hard tried Benchmark about 18 years ago like it very much even though it is a bottom shelf whisky

  15. JD

    I live in Japan, where people really love their whiskeys. I am a father of two, though, and my disposable income is not that much in this mega-expensive country. Usually the bargain whiskeys I find smell like ethanol and taste like paint thinner (not that I’ve ever tried it… but I can imagine it!). Anyway, same story here, googled on my iPhone and saw this review, tried it and so pleased! Finally a good priced whiskey here! I read it was bought by Kirin or some Japanese company, maybe that’s why it is about the same price you’d pay in the states. SOooo happyy…..

  16. Barlee

    I agree with all the pro Benchmark remarks. I was introduced to it by a nephew who was (like most of us) on a value budget. It looked like a JD knockoff -like EW black does- but even less expensive. Even today a 1.75 is 15.95 here in Fla. What’s MORE impressive is that it’s really a tasty bourbon. My only drawback is that I prefer the glass bottles over the plastic ones. Guess I could get a 750 (glass) for $10.00 and refill it. :)

    1. Ryan

      Perhaps the plastic bottle is how they keep it so cheap? :)

      -Ryan

  17. Nickie

    I live in Northeast Texas and many years ago a friend of mine told me about Benchmark. He said it was a fine whiskey and I needed to try it. I did and loved the taste. This is very good whiskey. I have been drinking it for over 25 years and have found not better including all of the famous brands. Keep making it; you make a very good product. Thanks a lot. N

  18. Val

    Ryan,

    saw it on sale and read your review – WOW what a value !
    Really nice taste….

    Austin, TX

  19. Kentucky man

    Kentucky Man living out in Colorado here. For the record I’m a Bulliet or Eagle Rare kind of guy. Saw a bottle of benchmark for sale this afternoon out my neighborhood liquor store and at first scoffed at the price, thinking it to be just another cheap bourbon, but then noticed it was distilled by Buffalo Trace, and damn son, they make soime fine bourbons. So I gave it a try.

    Best damn 10$ bottle of bourbon I’ve ever tasted. I’d say it’s on par with Jim Beam Black and give a slight edge to Makers. I’ve just imbibed two neats and I’m sold.

    Tastes like a 25$ – 35$ bourbon. Smooth hints of honey, and orange spice with just the right amount of bite. I like it a lot, give it an A+++ for the price.

  20. Randy Lahey

    Just picked it up in Illinois:) $10.00 for a glass fifth. Very good. I have been drinking Evan Williams and Dickel for a while now. This blows them out of the water on price and taste. I drink it neat with a Rolling Rock for an occasional chaser. Big thumbs up over here.

  21. Joe M.

    In order of price, Jim Beam, Evan Williams and Benchmark (13.99-8.99/750 ml.) I’m not a connoisseur of bourbons by any means but for the price Benchmark is not a bad choice.

  22. Jim

    Thanks for the review and agree with you. I just discovered “Beanchmark” while in Florida for the Winter. $14 + there. When I came home to Tennessee I went out in search of it and was able to find it with no trouble 1.75ml. $19.90 tax included.
    Love the slight sweetness and smoothest finish I ever saw. No burn just taste. No more Red Wax for me.

  23. JD

    Came across you review and want to share a story with you about Benchmark. Thanksgiving night a few years ago I had a 1/5 of Benchmark and told a friend I was hanging with I would share with him. He talked bad about it but tried it. Kept talking bad about it but kept drinking it. We killed it in a couple hours and he was still talking bad about it. It is now his whiskey of choice!

  24. Bobbo

    Just picked up a 750ml bottle for $10.99 in North Texas–thought I’d look it up, and saw your review. Very good stuff for the price–and NOT “grain neutral spirits,” like KD or any of the other “brown vodka” fake whiskeys out there.

    Heck, for ANY price, this is a well-made, very nice flavorful bourbon. I’m impressed.

  25. Margaret

    I’m typically a jack and coke kinda girl but I tried benchmark for the first time last week and unfortunately didnt have any coke around, but that didnt matter. It has a great taste on its own. As a typical college student, with little extra cash, Jack Daniels is out of the question. This is a great substitute!

  26. brad

    Enjoying this daily with apple juice…damn good drinking hooch! 18 bucks at the drug store in FL

  27. Arsenal_fan

    Bought this for $11 in Texas & taste first time & its taste is very fresh,sparkling & awesome with Coke..its pure bang for buckss.. guys do try it :)

  28. Rickster

    I had always been an Old Charter bourbon drinker. But when I was living in East Texas I ran out and had to go to the liquor store down the road. I went in to pick up my old charter and saw a sign that said “Tastes like Old Charter but half the price.”. I asked the clerk if it was true, and he told me if you don’t like it you can bring back the bottle half empty and I will refund your money. With an offer like that I could not resist. To make a long story short I have never bought another bottle of Old Charter and I cannot tell you how many bottles of Benchmark that I have purchased over the last 15 years. And I have recommended it to numerous friends and they all are amazed at how good it is especially for the price.

  29. Nick Cee

    In my strongest opinion, if you pay $20 for Benchmark, you are paying $20 for the wrong bourbon. I agree with your review but when I am mixing large amounts of Manhattans and “Whiskey Sours” for one of my parties, I try to keep the 750 ML at sub-$12. I get Benchmark and Rebel Yell for sub $12 in my area and it works. Benchmark is the choice if $12 or less. Want the secret of the century?: I used to pay $60/bottle for my bourbon THEN I SAW THE LIGHT. I am actually a huge fan of Old Grand Dad Bonded 100 proof. I pour it into a special old bottle from the 1800s and tell people it’s a “special batch” (and not another word). Massive praise from the straight drinkers, no complaints from the mixed drink guys, and light on me pocketbook.

    1. Ryan

      Thanks for the comment, Nick. Please note in the review that $20 – $25 is the range for 1.75 L, not 750 mL.

      -Ryan

  30. Douglas Pugh

    Benchmark has been at my house for years. I use to buy Jim Beam. But one day I tried Benchmark and it has the flavor I love when mixed with Coke. It’s a Great Whiskey.

    1. Chris Posey

      I also was just a jim beam drinker went to my wifes bar she tricked me with there house bourbon could not tell then she told me it was benchmark it was $2 during happy hour. Benchmark is my drink of choice now!!!!!!

  31. G. Robert

    I bought Benchmark Old No. 8 at the liquor store when my wife wanted to try making “bourbon chicken”. It was the cheapest bourbon in the store and was offereing a $3 rebate. The attempt at bourbon chicken was a bust and the bottle sat up on the back of the kitchen pantry shelf for two years. One day when I ran out of my regular brand I tried some Benchmark and was shocked by how smooth it was and how good it tasted. I was ashamed to admit to anyone that I liked this “cheap” whiskey but the more I drank it the more attached I became. After reading reviews on-line by people that know good bourbon whiskey I feel vindicated in my fondness for Old No. 8.

  32. C. Mader

    You can find it in North Carolina, at least in Wake County, that is; that’s the Raleigh-area, where I live.

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